My daughter has a crush on a boy who attends the same summer program that she attends. She started talking about him in the car one day. When she told me his name and described him, I reminded her that we've known this boy since he was two. His grandma used to bring him to our church sometimes. In fact, he attended my daughter's sixth birthday party - the reptile-themed one. Anyway, I guess she has rediscovered the poor kid and is all googly-eyed over him. I say "the poor kid" because apparently all the girls like him.
The other day, I picked her up from the camp program and the director pulled me aside. I could almost guess what he was going to tell me. "Some of the kids have been daring each other to do things," he said. "Your daughter was involved." He went on to explain how some kid had dared my daughter to kiss THE boy. So, my daughter took the dare and kissed him on his cheek. The director made it clear that he takes the whole thing very seriously and came down hard on the kids. He said that if it happened again, the kids would be kicked out of camp. His main concern was with the "daring" part. He worried that if a kid (like mine) would take a dare about something fairly innocent like a kiss on the cheek, what would happen if someone dared her to do something much worse?
I thanked him for letting me know, retrieved my daughter, and headed to the car. She was very sullen and very solemn. Whatever the director dude said, it must have had quite the impact. She had tears in her eyes before we even reached the car. I told her we'd talk about it on the way home. She seemed particularly worried about what her dad would say.
Honestly, I wasn't nearly as mad as she apparently thought I'd be. I get a lot madder when she loses shit, which is often. I told her that I'm paying a lot of money for her to attend these fancy summer programs (she gets to choose a different camp program each week) and that I'd really prefer if she would just focus on having a good time and enjoying the program. I also told her that it's perfectly normal and natural for her to like this boy, but she needs to stop doing stuff that is likely to make him uncomfortable. "Leave the boy alone," I told her. "Also, you'd better be the world's best camper for the rest of the summer."
When we got home, I told my husband what had happened. He was not terribly concerned. I told him just to have a quick talk with her and to tell her not to do it again. It was all he could do to keep a straight face. We talked to her a bit about not taking dares. She said she didn't know how to say no. "Just say, 'I have better things to do with my time,'" I suggested.
I keep thinking that this really is a very strange age. She's 10, so she's not a little kid anymore. She's capable of taking on a lot more responsibility than she actually accepts. She's been bugging me for an Instagram account. I said no, which has led to daily mother-daughter clashes. She keeps asking what she can do to earn an Instagram account. I told her she needs to prove that she can handle responsibility. She asked for examples. I said, "Well, you could help with the dishes, get up on time, go to bed on time, brush your teeth voluntarily, pack your own lunch, help with the laundry . . . shall I go on?"
Her face bore an expression of pure devastation. "How long would I have to do all THAT?"
"Um, until you move out."
So then she started crying. I should add that we were on our way to her orthodontist at the time. Also, she was wearing face paint that she (or some other kid) had applied at camp. Maybe I should also add that she signed up for a set-building program this week so she had paint all over her clothes. I had made her wear old clothes because we knew the paint would be flying. So it was that I showed up at the orthodontist's office with a crying tween who was sporting black streaks from her cheek to her neck. She was not embarrassed in the slightest as we sat in the lobby. I decided to ignore her and tried to read a magazine. The lobby was packed. She perched next to me on a small couch and all I could hear was "sniffle sniffle . . . instragram . . . buy why not? sniffle sniffle blah blah blah instagram."
Finally, we got through her appointment and left. I was surprised that she wasn't embarrassed because it seems like every little thing I do embarrasses her in a colossal way. More than once I've heard, "Please don't ever do that in front of my friends."
In some ways, she is pretty darned sophisticated. She has a sharp sense of humor and makes me laugh all the time. She's very bright and very clever. We recently received some standardized test scores from the state and her language arts score was about as high as you can get (math was decent but not nearly as high). Her test scores are mostly unrelated to what I'm saying here - I just wanted to brag for a second.
I know we have a very long way to go with all of this tween/teen stuff. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the saying goes. I do find it interesting to live with someone who hugs me and says, "I love you, Mommy!" one minute and then the next minute her head is spinning around and her bed is levitating. Your mother's in here, Karras. Would you like to leave a message? I'll see that she gets it.
There are lots of loving, hugging moments and also a lot of eye rolling and foot stomping. Oh, and don't forget the exasperating sighing. I hope I've got what it takes to weather this curly-haired storm.